The Music of England III (with a brief Russian digression): Vaughan Williams ascending

July 15, 2008 at 10:30 pm (Anglophilia, Music)

My husband and I were delighted to come upon “A Composer Forever English, Cows and All” in Sunday’s New York Times. Author Steve Smith makes a good case for a revival of interest in the music of Vaughan Williams. Not only that – after a period of somewhat dismissive condescension, critical appraisal of his works is in the ascendant. This current re-evaluation, accompanied by a plethora of performances, especially in the UK, is by way of commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death.

Now, with regard to the music of Ralph (pronounced “Rafe”) Vaughan Williams: there was never – and I do mean NEVER! – anything remotely resembling condescension in this house. There has been only reverence and rapture, feelings which have grown with repeated listening to these mystical, otherworldly, and profoundly beautiful works. Our affinity for this music has been reinforced by our recent visits to England. After I returned from Yorkshire three years ago, we created a slide show using my pictures. When it came time to choose the soundtrack, there was no hesitation:

We’re greatly looking forward to viewing O Thous Transcendent, a new film about Vaughan Williams by Tony Palmer. (Palmer also made a wonderful film about Sergei Rachmaninoff, a shortened version of which has been shown on the Ovation network.)

You can hear sound clips of some of the music of Vaughan Williams on the RVW Society’s site. (Needless to say, Ron and I are members in good standing of this fine organization!)

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